Gardening

Looking for something to grow in the winter? Try sprouts or mushrooms

S J. Klein, Alaska Sprouts

There are approximately three more months to go before the last frost of the winter, depending, of course, on Mother Nature’s mood this spring. By any gardener’s definition, that is too far away. There is only one remedy to ease the pain: grow something indoors.

Let’s start with sprouts. When I first mentioned growing them lo so many years ago, they were real novelties. Today, people actually go out of their way to eat sprouts — ordering them on take-out sandwiches, using them in stir fries and even just snacking on them. My, how times do change. Their popularity just proves why you should grow some.

And talk about easy. All you need are sprouting seeds — potential types of seeds to sprout include: buckwheat, chia, radish, lentil, fenugreek, mung bean, broccoli, alfalfa, clover, wheat, soybean and sunflower— a quart glass jar and a little water. Dump in a couple of tablespoons of seed, cover with water and then supply an inch or so more. Some will float until they absorb enough water and finally sink.

Let the seeds soak for a day, drain the water after 24 hours and refill. Repeat daily until you have sprouts — 3 to 5 days. So easy.

It is easiest to use a Ball or similar canning-type jar as your sprout garden. You want to use glass and not plastic and you can buy a special lid that acts like a screen so you can tip the jar over and drain out its water. These are usually available wherever you buy Ball jars. If not, cheese cloth works and you can also use a kitchen strainer when the time comes to drain off the water.

Next, consider microgreens, which are just older sprouts with chlorophyl. Specifically, I suggest you try sunflower seeds. In addition to them, you will need potting soil or a soil-less mix and a small, well-draining flat. You can use the very same seeds you feed birds — black sunflowers or the white, striped ones.

Soak two or three tablespoons of seeds as above, changing the water daily. Sunflower seeds float until waterlogged. When roots start to appear, plant shallow in the flat and move toward light — a window is OK, but your growing area lights are better. Monitor until the first true leaves start to form. Harvest and enjoy.

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If sprouts or microgreens are not your thing, consider mushrooms. These are perfect crops for the winter. All you need is a mushroom kit, purchased locally or via the internet and a dark, warm spot in which to sprout them. Just follow directions and you will get at least one and most often, two crops. Mushroom kits have been vastly improved over the years and there are lots of choices of types of mushrooms you can grow ranging from oyster to lion’s mane. What’s best, you don’t have to mix a substrate. All you need to do is open the box and dampen down what is inside.

Much to my chagrin, my Dad grow lots of different kinds of lettuces all winter long and I learned to dislike things such as arugula and all curly leaf lettuces. You might want to consider growing lettuce. Lettuce seed is easy to germinate and if you cut the crop with a scissors, you can keep a flat producing for while. It is so easy because lettuce seed always germinates. All it takes is a flat of soil, a cool spot and lights — I know you took my advice and set up the lights — and seed. Racks are popping up with lettuce seeds or you might have some left over from prior years. Follow the directions and harvest away.

Jeff’s Garden Calendar

Annual ABG Spring Gardening Conference: March 8-10 and in person this year. Visit www.alaskabg.org for more details. Add to your calendar and if you are interested in presenting, contact The Garden.

Amaryllis: Buy some when you see them.

Thrips: Too much water leads to thrips laying eggs in soil. Lighten up on the moisture and cover the soil with newspaper or foil so the females can’t lay eggs.

Jeff Lowenfels | Alaska gardening and growing

Jeff Lowenfels has written a weekly gardening column for the ADN for more than 45 years. His columns won the 2022 gold medal at the Garden Communicators International conference. He’s authored several books on organic gardening, and his latest book, "Teaming With Bacteria," is available on Amazon. Reach him at jefflowenfels@gmail.com.

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